Parents, nowadays, are wondering what is the right age to get a phone for their children? Smartphones have become a necessity nowadays because they are multifunctional devices that provide access to information. However, with the good, there is also the bad side of these gadgets which leave parents in a quandary. Should they wait until their children are older to buy them a smartphone or not?
According to Influence Central, which is a research firm, smartphone usage by age has gone down from 12 years old to 10 years old. Reports are coming in that children as young as 7 now have their own mobile phones. Experts have also warned that the age will eventually go down over the years because parents don’t want their phone usage to be disturbed by their children.
However, there are parents who are trying to fight back against the norm by putting up house rules on smartphone use in their homes. One example here is that their children will only get their own device by the time they reach high school and not before. The goal of the parents is to teach their kids the value of personal communication rather than building relationships online as well as knowing how to work hard for something that they really want.
It is hard to pinpoint the right time for children to use or even own a smartphone. It all boils down to when parents perceive that their child is ready to own one.
Children and Mobile Phones - When is the Right Time?
No two children are the same which means that no two parents will have the same idea as to when they should buy a smartphone for their child. In the United States, a study showed that out of 1000 respondents, 40% of them believed that the best time to give their children their own mobile device is between the ages of 11 and 13. Around ⅓ of the respondents believed that smartphones should be given when their kids are already in high school and not before.
What age should a child have a phone UK? A survey conducted by Internet Matters showed that the average age for kids to have smartphones in the UK is 10 years old. This is in line with the time that these kids will be in their secondary school and are nearing their adolescent years.
When should you give your child a smartphone? (Photo credit: Sakra World Hospital)
Although the study shows the preferences of parents when it comes to children and mobile phones, the reality is far from it. A lot of children as young as six years old are already hooked to using these devices and studies show that they tend to spend an average of 21 hours per week on them which is quite alarming, to say the least. This ongoing trend should give parents a pause as to how their children make use of these gadgets as too much exposure can have negative effects on their development.
The Downsides of Using Smartphone at a Young Age
Like it was mentioned before, smartphones can put children at risk of being exposed to the internet without proper guidance. However, a good number of parents are more worried about the screen time of their kids these days than other issues. What exactly does too much smartphone can do for these young ones?
Toddlers who are exposed to smartphones at a young age may become overstimulated with the graphics that they get hooked. The problem here is that this is a developmental stage wherein children need to interact person-to-person rather than be immersed in screens. Parents often use their gadgets as a means to distract their child while they are doing something else but this can backfire by affecting the child’s development.
By the time kids are in grade school, they will become immersed in physical games and making new friends. This is also the time when children will be doing other activities outside school which is one of the reasons why they are given a mobile phone to keep an eye on their whereabouts. Although this is a good idea, there are instances when bullying occurs both in real life and behind the digital world. Since children have access to smartphones and are on various social media sites, they might find themselves in the center of cyberbullying or will be seeking validation through their social media peers. Unfortunately, this can lead to an unhealthy relationship not just with others but to themselves since they are relying on their gadgets for validation.
- Lack of Empathy.
A child that grows up with a mobile phone as his or her regular company will not be able to make strong attachments with their family or with others. They will not develop any empathy which is important in building relationships with others and being more aware of the environment.
- Slow Development.
Another downside to children and mobile phones is that their development will be slower compared to others. This is because their motor skills are limited to swiping, tapping, and holding the phone and nothing more. Also, exposing your little one to a gadget’s blue light can affect their eyesight which can be easily avoided if you wait a while before giving your child his or her own device.
Teaching the Right Smartphone Use to Children
Choose the right phone for your child (Photo credit: nytimes.com)
Based on cell phone usage statistics by age, it is safe to assume that the average age that children get their own smartphone is at the age of 10 both in the US and in the UK. But regardless of what age you decide to buy your child a mobile phone, there are still a few things that you need to teach them with regards to this technology. If you want to avoid the downsides of smartphone usage, you might want to try these steps:
- Give your child a phone that doesn’t have internet capabilities. The goal of a parent in giving their child a phone is for them to call them in emergencies and to keep track of their location. You don’t have to buy your child an expensive model especially when they are young since this may also put them in danger of theft. A better option here is to get a regular smartphone without internet connection so they won’t be tempted to browse the internet.
- Buy a refurbished phone for your child. For your child's first smartphone ever, it would be wise to buy refurbished phones. There are multiple benefits to this idea. First, you won't spend a fortune on the phone. So, you won't feel bad or make your child feel bad if anything happens to the phone.
With children, accidental damage to electronic often happens. So, a refurbished phone will take the pressure off when it comes to pricing and the possibility of replacing it.
This doesn't mean to get your child a bad or worn phone, if course, as you can find pristine devices at half or third of their prices with new accessories and a good warranty policy.
- Discuss the downsides of smartphone usage. As with any new gadget that you have decided to gift your child with, it is important that you discuss the pros and cons of mobile devices to your kid.
- Keep track of screen time. It is never a good idea to leave your child playing with their smartphone for hours. That said, if they are at home, you should set ground rules on how many hours they are allowed to use their gadgets. If you can, look for programs that allow you to monitor your child’s usage so you will be able to correct their habits.
- Encourage family time. Children should grow up interacting with their family rather than being cooped up in their bedroom doing nothing but use their smartphone all day long. Unfortunately, some parents do the same when they are home. If you want to protect your children from being immersed too much on their gadgets, set aside a time for the family where all devices are turned off. The point here is to create a more personal bond with each other which can help with your children’s development stage.
- Determine when to buy your child his or her own phone. What is the right age to get a phone for your youngster? Although some would say that at age 10, your child will be ready to own one, make sure that you think your child is at the right frame of mind before getting them one. If you feel that this is not the right time, then don’t. You shouldn’t have to be forced to get them one because others are doing. You are responsible for your little one alone so you know what is best for them.
- Place parental controls. Another way to get peace of mind with regards to your child’s use of a smartphone is to download and install parental controls over it. Explain to your kid why you are setting up such a security so they will know that you are keeping an eye on them.
It is inevitable that your child will ask that you buy them a mobile phone for their own. After all, most kids at school do have one. However, if your child isn’t mature enough yet to understand the responsibilities that go with owning such a device, you might want to wait a few more years. Explain to your child when you think they will be ready for one.
Parents are often wondering when to give their kids a smartphone. This is not surprising as we are living in modern times where mobile devices are used by almost everyone these days. They have become our means of communication, our source of entertainment, and a gadget that can handle multiple functions. The question now is, when do you think your child will be ready for one?